Following an early January Ohio Appeals Court ruling that cleared the way for Cincinnati to enforce its disputed Responsible Bidder ordinance, the city administration is now attempting to stall its implementation.
The ordinance requires contractors on certain public construction projects to have graduated at least one employee from a registered apprenticeship program every year for the last five years. This ordinance is to be implemented in conjunction with a local hire program as well. The Responsible Bidder ordinance essentially requires contractors to supply a union workforce for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects over $400,000. Contracts under $400,000 are exempt from the ordinance in order to allow smaller businesses to bid on these projects.
By creating the ordinance, the city understood that a registered apprenticeship program produces a construction worker who, regardless of race or gender, works efficiently and can help save time and money on the jobsite.
Affiliated unions of the Greater Cincinnati Building and Construction Trades Council, including Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, provide their contractors with apprentices and journeymen, who receive upgrade training to ensure their safety on the jobsite and help them work more efficiently by instructing them on the latest industry technology and processes.
Following the court ruling, it appeared the ordinance would be implemented.
However, on Feb. 7, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black wrote a memo to the mayor and council members and urged a six-month delay implementing the “Responsible Bidder” ordinance, stating companies owned by women and minorities are small and do not have the staffs needed to complete the paperwork needed to comply with the local hire requirements.
In the memo, he asked council to pass legislation to delay the responsible bidder and local hire requirements until Sept. 12 to allow time for further review.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who did not support the ordinance, said Black’s proposed delay is a temporary pause. He told television station WCPO there are fewer companies owned by minorities and women that use union labor and have apprenticeship programs. He said he was concerned the ordinance would “move the city backwards on racial progress and minority inclusion” and drive up costs.
Cranley told WCPO he thinks a compromise for a delay on ordinance implementation is possible and that some union leaders told him they would be open to changes in the ordinances in order to assure the city’s minority-contracting progress is not damaged.
In a prepared statement to WCPO, Councilman Chris Seelbach, who championed the Responsible Bidder ordinance said, “Responsible bidder boosts the hiring and training of City residents, black and white, from every neighborhood. It’s a law that’s been on the books for five years, so no one can say they weren’t aware of it.
“Delays don’t help people out of poverty,” he said. “Let’s sit down together, bring everyone on board, consider all ideas to hire and train more people locally, but we aren’t going backwards.”
The argument that the ordinance will hurt women and minorities is unfounded however.
According to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio’s union apprenticeship programs are more diverse than non-union programs, which means a union workforce is more diverse than the non-union workforce. Union JACTs instruct 87 percent of the state’s total racial minority apprentices and 93 percent of Ohio’s female apprentices.
There were 1,703 total racial minorities combined in all union programs, as compared to just 244 in non-union programs.
The total number of women in union programs is 460, compared to 34 in non-union programs, according to the ODJFS.
Overall, union JACTs train 82 percent of the Ohio’s 11,043 apprentices.
Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 strongly urges the immediate implementation of the Responsible Bidder ordinance, to ensure construction workers, regardless of race and gender, receive livable wages, plus good health and retirement benefits on certain MSD projects.